Archie, Spike and the Dame

On this particular occasion the purpose of being in Paris (or Paris, France as it is known to my American readers) may have been to present a keynote speech to a European Congress with a global audience, but how often does a cat get a chance to turn tourist in one of the world’s premier cities?

So, with a few hours spare, the challenge was to set sail for the horizon in search of a few iconic structures…

…top of the list being Archie, Spike and the Dame.

Getting off the RER train at Chatelet Les Halles presents the immediate challenge of navigating an underground maze by shear guesswork. Emerging into the sunlight doesn’t necessarily provide a dazed and confused cat with any clear points of visual reference, as a multi-coloured pompous do of a centre seems completely at odds with the tradition of central Paris architecture. However, 40 years on and Le Centre Pompidou is still confounding the critics with its inside out aesthetic, combined with a sense that the original scaffolders remain on some French-like extended strike for no particular reason other than they can…

Then, with directional senses recalibrated, the gauntlet is seized and an early victory is sensed… it couldn’t be, could it? Is this the famous ‘Dame’ of every hunchback’s dream?

Sacre bleu, non, it turns out to be the 13th century Gothic jewel of Paris, Sainte Chapelle, housing a mere 1,113 individual stained glass windows (as Trump might say “That’s a lot of stains, we need to make America truly stained again, I’m going to make America the greatest stain on the planet!”)…

Stunned by the historic beauty of lesser known facades I stumble along parisienne walkways until my gaze is arrested by a dramatic set of flying buttresses… maybe this is the infamous ‘Dame’ of Paris? But sacre bleu, it is merely the 16th century Gothic architecture of the stunning Eglise Saint-Eustache, located at the entrance to the ancient Paris markets now known as Les Halles

Fearing the song lyrics “There is nothing like a dame…” becoming a true reflection of a failed search, my attention deflects toward another potential icon… could this monument before me possibly be the ‘Archie’ of my search? Sacre bleu, non monsieur, this is merely Carrousel Arc de Triomphe facing the Louvre, and providing quite a precarious position for parking one’s chariot, however many horses it takes to get you up there.

Arch near Louvre [2]

As for the ‘Spike’ of this story? It may be said that pyramids don’t count, I guess, otherwise Pyramide du Louvre would be difficult to surpass. If it is a clash of the historic and the modern, then this is certainly where you will get the point…

But, surely ‘Spike Jnr’ (aka Place de la Concorde) offers us a more convincing claim to be the ‘Spike’ that they come from all over the world to see? Not only that, but it also looks like it could provide a gateway to an arch-like discovery of monumental proportions…

Plas de la Concorde [1]

As spiky protuberances go, surely something dwarfed by a lamp post isn’t staking a claim to be a top draw when it comes to worldwide recognition of Paris landmarks?

Eiffel in distance [2]

At least this could be a mystery worth shining a light on…

Eiffel in distance [3]

In the meantime, the real ‘Archie’ of the title steps up to the plate, as we gaze up the Champs Elyssee to the Arc de Triomphe

With one success in the bag it is only a matter of walking a few hundred metres to the south before the ‘Spike’ emerges in the full glory of the Eiffel Tower

Eiffel [4]

So, finally, where can you find a grand old ‘Dame’ when you are in the centre of Paris? Having located the Eiffel Tower just try following the river as your newfound starting point…

Notre Dame in distance

… and those twin towers will surely emerge to reveal the grandeur of a Notre Dame sunset…

Notre Dame [1]

Notre Dame [2]

Until we speak again, after miles of walking around the city of love, all that is left to do is trust in the instincts of the locals, and… take a leap of faith…

Statue taking a dive!

Revered Cuisine

Who could possibly resist Magret de canard roti et sauce aux cerises? That is pan fried duck breast and cherry sauce for the less travelled gourmands among you…

It may well be supremely complemented by a glass of Mouton Cadet Bordeaux, but it is always important to be aware of the derivation of what you eat. On the very morning of this feast I surveyed the environs of my Paris hotel only to be somewhat dismayed by the attraction of the currently topical plastic flotsam and jetson for the local duck population…

But, I was quickly reassured that my wildfowl actually walks on water before adorning my plate!

Until we speak again, remember that only in Paris can we revere that which we may subsequently devour… allegedly!

Antidote in Blue

Many animals need to hibernate in winter, though I personally enjoy the rare sight of snow in these parts. However, for some people I have to accept that long winter months of cold and gloom tend to trigger the blues. So, it got me reminiscing about previous visits to the Greek island of Hydra.

Here, for those feeling deprived of the vitality accompanying sunny summer days, is a prelude of things looming just beyond the horizon…

Hydra sky

 

White & Blue

Bell Tower

Mira Mare @ Mandraki Bay

Until we speak again, hold on to your dreams, and soak up the blue.

Catch yourself on

Slow, slow, quick, quick…

For a city cat from Cardiff, a visit to the west of Ireland can provide a soporific change of gear. Not least because you have to catch yourself on to a naturally slower local pace of life.

Looking for a quiet indulgence in the national libation? We may not be ready just yet…

And there is a stark reminder that corners here were made for waiting on; even if they are not exactly on the corner! It is what it is, and you just have to catch yourself on

And, just because we are about 25 miles from the west coast doesn’t mean we can’t have a harbour, does it?

If it appears to you that we are ‘a few boats short of a regatta’, well, just catch yourself on

There again, the so-called Marina Point does provide home to further aquatic references, in the form of the Shearwater Hotel

This just maybe the place where the traditional lotion can be found. But, catch yourself on, it will only be served to you after an appropriate settling wait… as the local pace of life is more about quality than speed.

Further indulgence in the life of a snail brings its own rewards, as this is most certainly a cosy home where bovine and porcine companions can be found deliciously co-habiting in a bun…

Those who like their steaks of the lean variety, catch yourself on, and find a healthier part of the world. The juicy offerings here come with a protective layer of fat. But if that is not enough, try a basket of triple cooked chunky chips and a base of caramelised onions. Button mushrooms intrude on the base to showcase what healthy eating could be… if you were somewhere else, that is!

Until we speak again, check out county Galway in the west of Ireland, and Ballinasloe particularly, if you want to catch yourself on to a lifestyle of the slow.

A religious experience

The Last Supper

“Jesus… it is so easy to become one of the devoted disciples after crucifying some fried oysters!”

Welcome to blasphemers corner. But, that is something that NOLA [colloquial term for New Orleans, Louisiana] can do to you. A recent moment’s quiet contemplation, and suddenly I was there again. The day is 5th October 2017; the time is approximately 9.30pm; the bar is Vacherie in New Orleans.

The snare is a plate of fried oysters on spinach salad with belly pork and a bacon vinaigrette, with a glass of porter on the side. For tomorrow I take my leave, and a NOLA resurrection will have to wait.

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Until we speak again, in memory of Juno & Bella, Veganuary converts need not apply!

A Dumbfuckistan Trilogy

With only hours to go before the first Trump ‘State of the Disunion’ address, you can forget any great expectations of a new leaf being turned. With apologies to Matt Damon, there will only be Jason Bourne style amnesic chicanery, but without all of the engaging slick trickery.

Part 1 ~ The Dumbfuckistan Identity

Research recently reported in the [much maligned in high towers] New York Times tells the world what it sadly already knows… that the identity of the world’s strongest country is gun-shaped.

Americans are 4.4% of the global population, yet possess 42% of the world’s guns.

31% of mass shootings across the globe between 1966 and 2012 were by Americans.

In 2009 the US gun homicide rate was 33/million; compare that with countries where there is much tighter gun control: Canada = 5/million, and the UK = 0.7/million.

It is true that mass shootings can happen anywhere on the planet, but they only happen routinely in America.

Perhaps on reflection it was after Sandy Hook, where the mass killing of children somehow became a bearable consequence of the right to bear arms, that the ridiculous national identity was finally sealed.

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Part 2 ~ The Dumbfuckistan Supremacy

“I may be a teenage boy’s ego wrapped in a bum-crack combover to you, but my button is bigger than yours, and it works!”

 

Part 3 ~ The Dumbfuckistan Ultimatum

“If it went wrong, it was Obama’s fault, whatever it was. If it is going right, it will be great, really great; because I did it!”

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Until we speak again, Juno and Bella hope you don’t have too many Twitter-infused sleepless nights.

Hangin’ in the Treme…

Hangin’ in the Treme

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…Watchin’ people sashay
Past my steps
By my porch
In front of my door…

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Church bells are ringin’
Choirs are singing
While the preachers groan
And the sisters moan
In a blessed tone

 

Down in the treme
Is me and my baby
We’re all going crazy
While jamming and having fun

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Trumpet bells ringing
Bass drum is swinging
As the trombone groans
And the big horn moans
And there’s a saxophone

Festival Stage

Treme is a colourful location for the masterpiece post-Katrina drama series, as well as being a place of historic cultural significance…

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It was thanks to a tip off from the vunderbar Sue at the Vacherie Bar on Toulouse Street that resulted in me heading on down for an experience of stunning food and cool jazz in the heat of the afternoon…

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Until we speak again, keep jamming and having fun!

Full acknowledgements go to John Boutte for the lyrics of the Treme theme tune.